Thursday, February 24, 2011

Life Lesson #37: The Cheating Equation

I hope you weren't actually thinking all of my life lessons would be warm and fuzzy. Some, if not most, of what I've learned over almost 40 years has nothing to do with sweet moments, but everything to do with living my own life with honesty and integrity.

That being said, let's talk relationships, shall we?

I was single throughout my 20's... like really single. I think my longest relationship between 22 and 30 was around five months. Hmmm, that guy should get a ham or something. But during those formative adult years, I saw (what felt like everyone but me) friends, co-workers and family find that perfect mate, get married, soon followed by popping out a kid or two. But as the divorce rate will tell you, more than half of them didn't make it. It didn't matter if they were high school sweethearts, had eloped after three months together or were "best friends," sooner or later, things fell apart, sometimes sending one into the arms of another.

I have to say, that freaked me out -- a lot. There was a time when I wondered if every guy was a cheating liar and every woman was a demanding nag. I was terrified to not find that person, but even more scared that I might. It wasn't until I got together with Jeff that my fears dissolved a wee bit.

And then I got married.

I can only describe those first months of marriage to like when you buy a new car,  suddenly everyone seems to drive the same make and model. But instead of a sea of silver minivans, I saw cheating spouses everywhere. It was like the secret underbelly of wedded bliss was mocking me for believing my husband would actually be faithful.

Over the next few years, I noticed a pattern among those relationships that had ultimately ended after an affair. Not one of them -- not one -- was functioning as a partnership or had been for some time. He would work on his car... she would bury herself in kid activities... it was like they had turned off the need to connect with the person they committed their life to. It was then that it occurred to me, we all have it in us to stray. The thing that sets us apart from each other is our own unique "cheating equation."


Think about it. With women, it's often her emotional needs aren't being met. She feels neglected by her spouse, like she's not valued. She's home with the kids while he works long hours, or maybe she's working constantly, trying to support the family. One day, in the midst of carpool (or on a business trip), she meets a classmate's dad (or maybe a mysterious stranger on a plane). They hit it off, she's feeling intoxicated by the attention, and gets the tiniest glimpse into the person she used to be.

Next thing you know, she's lying to everyone she knows, just to sneak away for an hour with her new man.

And what about the guys? Why do you think men end up with the secretary so often? It's not because he was necessarily out looking (although we all know those who always are), it's that she was there, always listening, supporting him and making him feel like *the man*. Of course it never occurs to him that it's her job, so he gets all wrapped up in her adoration and the idea that she "gets him."

Next thing you know, his always-too-tired, dismissive wife is blindsided.

I'm not saying it's even a little bit okay to cheat -- hell no. I can't even imagine what I would do had I found out Jeff was stepping out with that little vixen who lives around the corner and is always watering her lawn sporting Daisy Dukes and Uggs. What I'm saying is that I believe that my husband, your spouse -- even you -- just might have a cheating equation.

So I would have to say life lesson #37 is that people do crazy things when they feel vulnerable and forgotten. Do I wake up every morning worried that Jeff will be unfaithful? Absolutely not. But just knowing that he could is enough to make me pay attention, always try to be better and put our relationship at the top of the priority list. Because when you're in a solid marriage, why would you go anywhere else?


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